The Hangar, the field turned airplane-hangar-style movie theater, has weathered the storm through the changes in the movie industry and is looking to serve the Maryville, Missouri, community and to adapt and meet new challenges head-on.
The five-screen movie theater just off Main Street turns 20 years old in November.
Richard Groves has been the general manager for The Hangar since its inception. He created it with a group of shareholders because they saw a need in Maryville.
“Maryville needed a state of the art cinema, and we sought to meet that need,” Groves said.
Groves, along with the help of a team, came up with the idea for a movie theater but with a twist.
The idea for The Hangar came partially from the pursuit of cost-effectiveness and marketing. Building the facility like an airplane hangar kept costs lower than traditional movie theater construction and helped them market the theater as a different experience, one that customers like Northwest senior Mallory Krishna appreciate.
Krishna has viewed movies at The Hangar 15 times and said that she has a different experience watching a film there.
“It really just has like a magical element to it,” Krishna said.
The social experience is what Groves said is the secret to keeping the doors open.
Groves believes that people will go to the movies because they need to socialize even with advancements in the entertainment industry and the rise of streaming.
“There is always something that’s going to kill our industry, now it’s Amazon or Netflix. No, because you can’t have a social experience with Netflix,” Groves said.
Movie theaters themselves have still adapted to changes to fit current technology and trends. The largest change for The Hangar and many other theaters happened when the movie industry stopped distributing movies on film and switched them to digital files. The Hangar made the official switch in 2013, Groves said.
Shay Powers, an employee who has worked for The Hangar for more than nine years, said The Hangar waited until the “11th hour” to make the switch. The wait actually benefited The Hangar, Powers said.
“I think a lot of the kinks were worked out before we got it,” Powers said.
One problem that often occurs with small-town theaters is the lack of ability to get new titles. Small-town theaters are often forced to choose between which major blockbusters they want to carry because of limited screens.
The five-screen model of The Hangar makes these decisions much easier compared to other small-town theaters because of its increased capacity, Groves said.
Powers estimates that the Hangar gets around an average of 80 titles a year, which is a good mark for a smaller theater.
A movie’s box office success also determines the length of its run in the Hangar. This can lead to some pretty surprising results for the longest run movie in The Hangar.
“The longest-running, most successful film that we have had in our 20-year run is ‘Wild Hogs,’” said Groves.
The Tim Allen and John Travolta biker gang adventure ran for a whopping 11 weeks. Groves estimated the average run of each movie at three weeks.
“Wild Hogs” is an example of what Groves said is one of the best parts about running a theater. Hollywood does all the leg work for marketing movies via commercials and promotions, so he doesn’t have to, Groves said.
“Hollywood sells the movies, not me,” Groves said.
Groves said this allows him to focus more on improving the customer experience, instead of worrying about marketing films. Powers believes the experience especially when focusing on younger audiences will be largely important to movie theaters like The Hangar in the future.
“It’s gonna be more about the experience and less about what you are watching,” Powers said.
For the 20th year anniversary, The Hangar has already replaced normal seats with recliners in one theater and is eyeing to improve the experience more with the remodel that is currently underway.
The rise of home theaters, streaming and the fall of movies printed on film, The Hangar has been steady through it all, Groves and the shareholders are determined to keep it that way far into the future.